Criminal Justice

Judge rejects life sentence for drug dealer who sold fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed BigLaw associate

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“Cocaine use runs rampant throughout the legal community and sometimes begins in law school,” according to Above the Law. Image from Shutterstock.

Updated: A drug dealer has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for delivering cocaine laced with fentanyl to a BigLaw associate and two other New York City professionals, resulting in their deaths.

Billy Ortega of West Milford, New Jersey, was convicted in January for selling drugs that killed Julia Ghahramani of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld along with two others, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams of the Southern District of New York sentenced Ortega on Wednesday, according to a Department of Justice press release.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of life in prison in a Sept. 27 sentencing memorandum, Law360 reports.

Ortega ordered delivery of the drugs through a courier, even though he was aware that the same batch had sent a man to the hospital, according to prosecutors.

Ortega had sought 25 years in prison. He was convicted on one count of narcotics conspiracy resulting in death, three counts of narcotics distribution resulting in death, and one count of use and carrying of a firearm in furtherance of the narcotics conspiracy.

Ghahramani was 26 years old when she died in March 2021, according to a foundation established in her name. She was a 2020 graduate of Columbia Law School who sought to build community and ensure access to justice for all.

She had worked at organizations that include the International Crisis Group and the Center for Popular Democracy. She also helped organize and lead March for Our Lives demonstrations after the mass shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Others killed after taking the cocaine were trading executive Ross Mtangi, 40, and social worker Amanda Scher, 38, according to an October 2022 story in the Wall Street Journal noted by Above the Law.

“Cocaine use runs rampant throughout the legal community and sometimes begins in law school,” according to Above the Law.

The blog included information on how to buy fentanyl test strips and provided links.

Updated Oct. 5 at 12:15 p.m. to report on the sentence.

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